TIFF Review: Le Pere de Mes Enfants | Bleader

Saturday, September 12, 2009

TIFF Review: Le Pere de Mes Enfants

Posted By on 09.12.09 at 07:12 AM

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I've never heard of Mia Hansen-Love, and it's too early in the morning for me to phone Gabe Klinger and inquire about her. According to the Internet Movie Database, she's made three movies in France, none of which were released in Chicago. Her third, La Pere de Mes Enfants, which screened yesterday at the Toronto International Film Festival, impressed me with its patient story development and melancholy, highly credible ending.

I can't go into too much detail without tipping you to the turning point of the movie, which startled me and which I wouldn't want spoiled if I were you. A few weeks ago I published a capsule review of the sci-fi fantasy District 9 in which I gave away the turning point, and after the review site Rotten Tomatoes linked to it, comments began to pile up, on that site and the Reader's, calling me a douchebag, demanding that I be fired, and threatening me with a good ass-kicking.

I don't know the French word for douchebag, though I suspect it's French in origin anyway. (I forgot to pack my English-French lexicon before leaving for Toronto, along with my shaving cream and my computer mouse.) But both District 9 and Le Pere de Mes Enfants present a problem in that almost everything that transpires in the first half of the movie is set-up; the functional dramatic conflict doesn't become apparent until the turning point. So there's really no way to convey the contours of the story to your reader unless you spill the beans.

In District 9 the turning point is so predictable that I didn't think it would matter one way or another, but I was genuinely startled by the turning point of Le Pere de Mes Enfants. Can one fairly be accused of spoiling a movie for people who may never get a chance to see it? I'm not sure, but I'm not eager to find out.

The central character is an independent movie producer whose warm home life with his wife and three daughters has been neatly cordoned off from his work life, which is mired in problems. He owes a crippling amount of money to a film processing house, and the French tax office is hounding him. One of his projects involves a South Korean director who was supposed to arrive in Paris as part of an eight-person crew but instead has shown up with 18 people. Another involves a well-known Swedish maverick filmmaker who's letting the budget spiral out of control.

That's not really the subject of the movie. It's a story of secrets and moral compromises, of coming to terms with a loved one's character flaws, of balancing one's artistic legacy against one's personal legacy. Of course, at this point I'm not really reviewing the movie at all—I'm just hyping it. But at least I didn't give away the plot.

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